For 40 years, Delilah’s Pet Shop has provided pets to the Bloomington community. But on January 1, a city ordinance banning the retail sale of cats and dogs went into effect, forcing the store to adapt.

“It’s so quiet now,” said owner Lesli Henderson-Miller. “Before, we could hear the sounds of people laughing, the sounds of barking dogs.”

The store, named after the Saint Bernard Delilah family, was founded by Henderson-Miller’s mother, Karene Kidwell, who was a veterinary technician. Henderson-Miller broke down in tears while discussing the death of her mother, which occurred last year.

“It’s been a tough year,” he said.

In a vote of 8-0 in December 2021, the Bloomington City Council approved the ordinance in response to concerns about puppy mills, which are large breeding facilities that breed dogs for profit, regardless of how they are treated. to the animals.

Henderson-Miller said only one city council member visited her store while the ordinance was being decided. She remembers the member saying the store was nothing like what they were trying to stop.

“What we do here is love our animals,” Henderson-Miller said. “It is a soul. It’s a little person. He must be treated as a person ”.

Henderson-Miller understands that the council meant well, but believes the ban was unfair to stores that were doing nothing wrong.

“This is my whole life,” he said.

Opponents of pet retailing are primarily concerned with where the pets come from. Virgil Sauder, director of Animal Care and Control for the City of Bloomington, said some breeders don’t ensure pets come from healthy genetics and sometimes separate puppies too young, leading to health problems. and behavior.

The other option for sourcing is a middleman system, where people buy animals from puppy mills and resell them online or in pet stores. Sauder said places like these often place animals in small cages filled with feces, urine and garbage.

“They are basically factory-bred puppies,” he said.

But getting pets from ethical breeders can be beneficial for those who want young puppies or are interested in meeting the pet’s parents, Sauder said.

While the push to ban pet sales in stores has reduced the number of pets in breeders nationwide, some Indiana legislators are seeking to pass a law that would allow stores to sell pets from USDA-licensed breeders. Introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, these bills would make local ordinances, like Bloomington’s, unenforceable.

Samantha Morton, Indiana state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said USDA certification does not mean breeding practices are ethical. According to the Humane Society of the United States, USDA-licensed breeders who violate the Animal Welfare Act are rarely fined and can easily renew their licenses.

Morton said the organization is working to stop the Indiana legislation. She said there are 32,000 fewer breeding dogs caged in licensed facilities compared to ten years ago, which she believes is due to legislation causing a decline in pet retail sales.

Morton said pet stores may not source pets ethically, even if they don’t come from puppy mills.

“Responsible breeders want to meet the family that is coming to buy the dog,” he said.

Henderson-Miller says she sourced her pets from local breeders and emphasized the commitment that comes with owning a pet to prospective buyers. She said being a small business owner makes it hard for her to compete with the big companies that have also stopped selling pets, like PetSmart or PetCo, because she can’t buy items from the wholesale store.

“It’s such a fast-paced world that it’s very easy to sweep someone under the rug if you can,” he said. “But when you destroy someone’s life, like what he’s starting to do, it hurts.”

Although the status of pet retailing remains uncertain, Henderson-Miller is adapting to the ordinance by offering grooming services and selling a variety of pet food, toys and accessories.

In a wooden pen room that used to house puppies and kittens, all that’s left are a few rescues and favors for friends. Pens with pets are marked with “NOT FOR SALE” notes.